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MPs publish report on Assisted Dying/Assisted Suicide

29 February 2024

The Health and Social Care Committee has published its report on Assisted Dying/Assisted Suicide.

Committee chair, Steve Brine MP, said he hoped it will - as set out in the original terms of reference - act as a comprehensive basis for future debate in both Houses of Parliament. The cross-party group of MPs say their report is not intended to provide a resolution to the debate but to present a broad body of evidence as a ‘significant and useful resource’ for future debates.

The report covers Parliament and the current law, the Government's role in the debate, international examples of jurisdictions where AD/AS is available in some form, the involvement of physicians and assessments of eligibility and capacity to give informed consent, and palliative and end-of-life care.

The Committee identified the pursuit of high-quality compassionate end-of-life care as a common theme in the evidence it received. Also important was agency and control for the person dying.

AD/AS is currently being considered in both Jersey and the Isle of Man, and the Committee concludes that the Government should be “actively involved in discussions” on how to approach possible divergence in legislation between jurisdictions.

During the course of its inquiry, the Committee visited Oregon, which became the first US state to legalise the practice, and collected both written and oral evidence from international witnesses. The report concludes that many of the jurisdictions which have legalised AD/AS did so recently, with still much to learn as time passes.

Despite the UK being a world leader in palliative and end-of-life care, the report concludes that access and provision of such care is patchy. 

It recommends the Government ensures universal coverage of palliative and end-of-life services, including hospice care at home, and more specialists in palliative care and end-of-life pain relief. The report urges the Government to commit to guaranteeing that support will be provided to any hospices which require funding assistance. 

The report also calls for new guidance from the GMC and the BMA to provide clarity to doctors on responding to requests for medical reports for applicants seeking AD/AS abroad.

More than 68,000 responses were made by members of the public through an online form, with more than 380 pieces of written evidence submitted to the inquiry since its launch in December 2022. MPs express gratitude to each organisation and each member of the public who contributed to the inquiry, including those taking part in roundtable events.

Chair comment

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Steve Brine MP said:

“The inquiry on assisted dying and assisted suicide raised the most complex issues that we as a committee have faced, with strong feelings and opinions in the evidence we heard.

“We intend the information and testimony we present in our report today to have a lasting legacy and, as we set out in the initial terms of reference, be a significant and useful resource for future debates on the issue. That could still be during this Parliament of course or after the next General Election.

“We’re particularly grateful to those who shared very difficult personal stories. The accounts were enormously helpful to us as we considered the issues involved and I’d like to put my thanks on record.”

Further information

Image credit: UK Parliament/Elspeth Keep